How to Use Instagram's "Surfaces" to Boost Engagement
When it comes to Instagram, you absolutely want the most engagement for your business and brand. But how? This “algorithm” people talk about is ever-changing, so to make sure you are always ahead of the game, I wanted to give you some ideas that can help maximize your discoverability! Our suggestions come straight from our many hours of research and trial and error!
Read on for the inside scoop to help build your Instagram engagement and visibility!
When it comes to Instagram, they say consistency is not just about regularly posting on your Feed and uploading Stories. Straight from the top, Instagram says it's about being consistent on all “Surfaces” of Instagram -- basically the different ways you can post on Instagram. These surfaces are: regular “Feed” posts, “Stories”, “Reels”, “Lives”,“IGTV” and “Guides”. What surface you post on is just as much an important factor as what you post. Instagram takes all these six methods of publishing content into account when they're determining your reach.
Let's go beyond the surface and discuss the real estate, just to review.
Feed (left). I consider regular Feed posts as your own personal homepage. It's your opportunity to post images that convey what your brand is about. This gives your audience an idea of what your brand represents and is the center of ongoing regular content that followers can comment on. Your images/videos/carousels are what will catch people's eye so keep them on brand and interesting. Along with the visual comes the compelling captions where you can tell your story, inform, entertain, inspire and teach. The visuals draw your audience in, but they stay because of the captions!
Stories (right). Half a billion users view Instagram Stories every single day. They're such a great opportunity to speak to your tribe (and potential tribe)! Often it's because of well, FOMO because Stories disappear after 24 hours and you never know what you're gonna get when you click on that little rainbow circle. Stories are less formal, they're real, which helps your audience get to know the true you. So relax, be yourself, and add value! Stories offer engagement stickers like polls, sliding scales, quizzes, question boxes, etc, which make it a great way to get to know and connect with your audience. Sometimes the real you — unpolished, messy bun, coffee in hand — is what people want to see. (Don't forget, you can create highlights from Stories to keep relevant content front and center on your profile. Stories will disappear but the highlight is forever!)
Reels (left). If you need a refresher, check out last month's blog here. I gave you all the goods on Reels, how they work and how to create the best Reels for your brand. But to summarize, Reels offer an opportunity to go viral and be discovered using fun audios. Reels are featured in the explore/discovery section of Instagram, so you can really build up your visibility using this surface.
IGTV. This feature is Instagram's long-form video format. It mimics YouTube. IGTV is best used for creating a series, Q&As/interviews, and showcases — any video that's over a minute and up to an hour.
Instagram Live (right). Instagram Live lets you broadcast video to your followers in real-time (up to 4 hours of content) and archive the broadcast for 30 days. It's a super way to connect with your audience by interacting directly and showing the candid, unpolished, human side of your brand. #bemorehuman please! Your viewers can comment or ask questions directly, a win-win when it comes to actual human interaction. Plus, your viewers get a notification when you go live!
Guides. Instagram Guides are a tool for content discovery that gives users an easier way to share information in a simple, organized format. According to Instagram, Guides are “a way to easily discover recommendations, tips, and other content from your favorite creators, public figures, organizations, and publishers.” Think: New York City tour guide map.
The Straight Talk on Surface Strategy
Let's Get Down to Business
In terms of your regular Feed, Instagram suggests that three photo posts and one video post per week (any Surface) should be your baseline. But did you know that you could even post a carousel in place of a video and get similar (or even better) engagement? That's because believe it or not, carousels do better than single image Feed posts (and they give you more space to be creative — more pics, more value!). Instagram really pushes carousels. Notice that if you don't swipe through all the images of a carousel on a post, it will continue to pop up on your Feed. The platform wants you to go all the way through the carousel post! Videos (i.e. Reels, IGTV and Lives) help you show your face and build a brand presence (Stories do too, obviously, but more on them in a moment). Reels have higher reach right now but also remember to use IGTV and Lives. A note about Lives — instead of trashing them after they are broadcast, go one step further. Save them to your IGTV. That's a simple way to stay consistent on two of the six surfaces. You've met your quota of “one video a week” and you've repurposed your content — win/win. “Stories” time: it’s a good idea to consistently post to Instagram Stories. By posting more often and utilizing all the engagement stickers, you have a better chance of reaching viewers as they browse their daily Stories — and the more views you gain, the better your visibility will rank. Let's not forget Guides: you can share your brand's Guides to Instagram Stories — and so can everyone else.
Pro-Tip for building engagement on ALL Surfaces: Ask your audience what they want. Keep encouraging feedback from your followers. Instagram can tell that you are looking to build your following.
Written by Alexandra Reilly CEO of LadyBoss Global Media LLC
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